03/04/2015 05:55 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

The Art of Passing

When most people walk into a grocery store, they will never feel the way did. Even still to this day. The first time I chose to present as female and go grocery shopping, I spent at least an hour in the mirror. Maybe longer. Walking into that store for the first time, my heart must have been beating a thousand miles a minute; I could feel it in my shoes. I stormed past the teenage sales clerks, the custodian sweeping aisle nine. I kept my head down low, as not to draw attention to myself. I had heard nothing but horror stories on the news. Something about a boy named Brandon with a sock in his pants. It was all confusing. I didn't feel like Brandon. I didn't feel like a boy. I felt like me.

Down the aisles, I grazed slowly, each trembling step leaving the newfound stench of freedom lingering beneath my heels. God did they hurt, though. First time wearing heels to grocery, 50 minutes of walking around and making a fool out of myself that day. That's what I did that day. Hey, who was I to think what common girls wear to the store? I liked pretty shoes, pointe blank. Still do.

So, anyway, I'm looking at the vegetables. I pick out all the things I like for sides, and as I'm reaching for the green bean sprouts, my cart bumps against an older lady's cart next to me. She looks up at me with a sudden glare, her posture demonizing me as she slowly steps back. She clutches her handbag tighter, yanking the cart away from me, continuing to fill the market with passive rage. I had never been met with such disdain for what seemed to be no literal reason. It chilled me to the bone.

Shouldering up, I kept on walking, my skinny black dress swaying back and forth, three out of four wheels on the cart doing their jobs. Pick up a half gallon of almond milk. Turn the corner and finally i'm at checkout. I continue to pant in slow motion, engaging myself with the deactivated cell phone in my hands. It lit up, it had buttons, it was a temporary distraction. It kept my newly nervous hands busy enough not to shake. Finally, all the items go through the scanner one at a time. The teenage boy scanning my milk drops it into a brown paper bag. "Is that all for you today, Sir?" he asks genuinely. I stop and touch my glossy lips to think. "No, that will be it," I say calmly, removing my two sacks from the counter and leaving the store.

I get back into my car and began to sob. I was filled with rage, anger, frustration. If there was a god how could he make me like this? I pelted my steering wheel with my fists over and over with reckless abandon. Was this how every outing would be? Would I always be some item on display? Well, that was a year ago. Today, my grocery store attire as follows:

- Pajama Bottoms (1)
- Cold Boots (1)
- Sunglasses(1)
- Coat (1)
- Shitty Makeup Job (1)
- Knockoff DKNY Collection Wristlet (1)

If transition has taught me anything, it's that out culture is one that sees what it wants to see. We are ones to believe quickly that the proof is in the pudding, when, in fact, we eat the pudding and hardly consider its contents.

Do you read the back of a Snack Pack box before you eat a pudding? I sure as hell don't. That's when it hit me. I have to be what I want people to see. I walk to the store every week, and every week it's the same now. "Excuse me, miss," or "Is your hair real?" It's a different ballgame, but it's the one I signed up for. Passing is not about trying to look cisgender or stereotypically male or female. At the heart of it, true passing is about being who you are. Letting your truest self shine through. You will only "pass" to the rest of the world when you "pass" for yourself. It takes self love and appreciation to craft who you are inside, and you must condition your heart to be strong.

Transition is not an easy journey, but one that can result in your life changed forever, sometimes for the better, sometimes for worse. From the root of all my experience in this fucked up life, all I can tell you is to be yourself inside and out. Cosmetically, people will say what they will say. Being a happy adult is deeper than just being happy with who you see in the mirror. You must also learn to love whatever is inside of you. Keep in mind, that passing is only a social construct designed to further put you down and ostracize you for being who you are. You are not an "other." Do not let hetero-normative thinking define how you think. Listen to your guts, kid; listen to your minds, and above all listen to yourself and you are sure to follow your own yellow brick road.